“I think Ryan’s dead,” Brendon said, nodding solemnly. “I’m waiting for Frank to stop by, because I don’t want to be the one who finds his body.”
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A/N: Apartment building AU! So, um, if you’re familiar with my epic DT? This was kind of written like that, only at a much, much smaller scale. If you’re unfamiliar, it just means that it’s a whole bunch of scenes strung together by a whole bunch of characters. I pretty much throw you into the deep end and you have to swim out. Everyone is weird. Bob’s keys are all for clumsygyrl. Enjoy! Feedback would be ever so nice :)
the first rule of broom-wielding
Spencer knew he had a shoe problem, had had a shoe problem for many years, but he didn’t realize how out of control it’d gotten until he finally moved out of his parents' house. Ten boxes. Ten boxes dedicated to sneakers and loafers and flip-flops and it wasn’t so much that he was ashamed, or shocked, or weirded out or anything. He just had no idea where he was going to put them all in his tiny apartment. Closet space was practically nonexistent.
“Hey. Hey, need some help?”
Spencer jerked his head up to see a dark-haired guy, wide smile, tight jeans, peeking in the open door at him. He had a tiny black teacup poodle in his arms.
“Um.” Spencer bit his lip. “No?”
“Sure? ‘Cause you look a little lost, dude, and you’ve got fifty-thousand boxes there, and your van’s still full, right?” he asked. “I saw it on my way up. Seriously, let me help, I’m so good at helping.”
It wasn’t that Spencer didn’t want the offered help. He just didn’t have anywhere to stack his boxes. Also. “I didn’t think we were allowed pets.”
“Oh, uh.” The guy leaned forward, dropped his voice, eyes twinkling. “I’ve got a disease. A furry arm disease, seriously, you did not see a dog, Sassafras here is an illusion.”
Spencer’s lips twitched. “Yeah, okay.” He shook his head. Whatever. As long as it didn’t yap its head off all hours of the day.
“I’m Brendon,” he said, stepping in and over a box labeled Kitchen with a question mark, because Spencer was not entirely sure it was for the kitchen. His little sister had helped him pack.
“Spencer Smith.” He placed his hands on his hips, surveyed his mess. “I think I’m good, thanks. I might need to unpack some before I bring anything else up.”
“Spencer Smith,” Brendon repeated, still grinning. “Well, Spencer, I’ll be across the hall if you change your mind.”
“Oh my god, Jon,” Brendon said, bouncing into the apartment and dropping Sass onto the couch next to Dylan. Sassy was not impressed. She bared her teeth at the cat with a little growl and then scrambled down to hide under the coffee table. “Jon, Jon, Jon.”
“What?” Jon poked his head out of the bathroom, dress pants unbuckled and chest bare, a towel draped around his neck.
Brendon grinned. “I met a boy.”
“A boy.” Jon arched an eyebrow. “Okay.”
“A real boy,” Brendon clarified.
Jon looked down at himself. “Huh. Not many around here, I guess?”
Brendon rolled his eyes. “Shut up, you don’t count. You’re never home, anyway.”
“Except for right now.”
“Yeah, sure, a slight exception, can we get back to talking about my new boy now?” Brendon followed Jon into his bedroom, watching him shrug into a white oxford, button it up with quick fingers, then tug on a dark blue sweater.
“What about Ryan?” Jon asked, voice muffled by the wool as he pulled the sweater down past his face.
“I think Ryan’s dead,” Brendon said, nodding solemnly. “I’m waiting for Frank to stop by, because I don’t want to be the one who finds his body.”
“Smart move.” Jon grinned, reached over to ruffle Brendon’s hair. “Say hi to your guy for me, okay?”
Brendon pouted. “How long will you be gone?”
Jon shrugged. “Few days. Try not to bug Ray too much, and, seriously, stop taking Sass everywhere. You’re going to spoil her, and my dad’s gonna pitch a fit when he gets back.”
“But she gets lonely. Jon, Jon.”
“Yeah?” Jon pulled on his jacket, rifled through his briefcase by the door.
“She gets lonely, Jon.” Brendon waited until Jon looked up at him, then widened his eyes and fluttered his lashes in this totally beguiling way.
Jon sighed. “Yeah, okay. Geez, you’re adorable. C’mere, you,” he said, and Brendon launched himself into Jon’s arms for one of Jon’s awesome hugs.
He hated it when Jon went away.
Frank practically kicked in Ross’s door. “Hey, asshole, you better not be fucking dead,” he said, because Brendon had left a purple post-it note on the door for him that said RYAN’S TOTALLY DEAD THIS TIME I SWEAR. Brendon was one weird-ass fucking kid.
He turned off the hallway and into the kitchen, dropped the bag of groceries on the floor, because the counter was practically bowing under the weight of takeout boxes, half-eaten plates of food, and a plant that looked seriously close to death. Frank wrinkled his nose. Jesus Christ. Ross was a pretty disgusting dude, and it was actually really hard to gross Frank out.
“Ross,” he yelled. “Ross, where the hell are you?”
Wandering out into the living room, Frank started to think that maybe Brendon was right. It smelled like someone had died, and it wouldn’t be the first time Frank’d found a dead body on his route. The worst was the one with that old lady and the cats. Frank shuddered. He didn’t get paid nearly enough to deal with shit like that.
And then he spotted the skinny kid curled up on the floor behind his mammoth desk, sheaves of papers spilled all around him, a palm pressed into his forehead, hair a lank dirty mess over his eyes, mouth moving in soft murmurs as he dug into the wall with what looked like a dull butter knife.
“What the fuck, Ross?” It looked like maybe Ross had finally gone insane. Frank was kind of relieved he wasn’t dead, though, and not only in the ‘thank god I don’t have to call the police’ way, but also because he’d gotten reluctantly fond of Ross over the past six months.
“Shh, shh, hang on,” Ross said, eyes half closed, like he was having a moment, and whatever. The wall was pretty fucking ugly, but whatever got him high, right?
Frank rolled his eyes and went back into the kitchen to put the groceries away.
Gerard stubbed his cigarette out and ducked back inside the store with a sigh. Tuesday, 2:15 PM. Frank was never there at the same time of day each week, but Gerard was kind of a stalker. He’d feel bad about it if Frank wasn’t so fucking hot.
“New guy upstairs,” Ray said from behind a comic.
Gerard nodded. “Yeah.” The moving van was still blocking his on-street parking, but they got mostly foot traffic anyway, so he wasn’t going to complain.
“You know Walker’s got a dog, Gee?” Mikey asked. He was on his back on the counter, knees bent, hands clasped over his stomach.
“You’re not getting a dog.”
“No, I mean.” He tilted his head to the side, blinking slow behind his glasses, and Gerard knew if he fucking asked for a dog Gerard would totally give one to him, because fuck. Mikey was Mikey. “No dogs allowed.”
Gerard shrugged. The dog was fairly new, and Brendon was telling everyone they had rats, really big curly-haired rats with adorable button ears, see? and Gerard didn’t have the heart to tell him he had to get rid of it. “So long as Bob’s okay with it,” he said.
Bob probably wasn’t okay with it, of course, but he had the same weakness for Brendon as everyone else. Walker was just damn lucky.
“Frank here?” Ray asked, still not looking up.
Gerard tugged on the ends of his hair. “Here and gone.” Despite having an enormous and embarrassing crush, in the past six months Gerard had said approximately four words to Frank. It wasn’t that Gerard was shy or anything, he just didn’t know what to fucking say. A couple lame hellos and byes were par for the course, and the only reason he even knew his name was because Brendon was friends with everyone in the entire fucking world.
“I could introduce you,” Mikey said. “We shook hands last week when he was leaving Ross’s. I could be, like, a conduit.”
“Catalyst,” Ray corrected absently.
Mikey tapped his foot, hmmm’d. “You sure? I don’t know, man, I think I mean conduit. Like, a middle man.”
“Whatever, seriously, no,” Gerard said. He was not a fourteen-year-old girl. He didn’t need fucking notes passed for him.
The phone rang and Ray finally put his comic book down, then punched Mikey in the side. “Mikey, dude, we’re open. Get your enormous feet off the counter.”
Gerard really needed more coffee. He pinched the bridge of his nose and headed back to the break room.
“Patrick,” Pete said. “Patrick, I love you.”
“I know.” Patrick hunched down on the couch, tried to make himself a smaller target. “I love you, too.”
“See? See, we’re perfect. It was writ in the stars,” Pete said grandly, “long, long ago.”
Pete hopped over the back of the sofa, settled into Patrick’s side. “Yes, darling?”
“I’m not going to pretend to be your boyfriend.”
Pete frowned, but it was one of his flirty frowns, chin tucked on Patrick’s arm as he gazed lovingly – that was the only fucking term for it, even though Patrick really hated calling it lovingly – up at him. “But, ‘Trick,” he said, “my parents’ll love you, dude. You’re awesome.”
“Get Brendon to do it,” Patrick grumbled.
“But I don’t want Brendon.”
Patrick sighed, tugged his hat down further and tried to avoid Pete’s eyes. “You don’t want me either.”
“Oh, that’s a horrible, horrible lie! A falsehood, even. How could you, Patrick?” Pete pressed a palm over his heart.
“Pete.” Patrick caught Pete’s hand, caught Pete’s gaze again, which was a bad move, because for all his joking, Pete’s eyes were nearly always so earnest when he looked at him. “Pete.”
“Patrick.” Pete stared at him and stared at him and finally Patrick blew out an exasperated breath and said, “Fine.”
Pete grinned. He said, “Okay, cool, now let’s go say hello to the new guy and you can practice being my cuddly significant other.”
“So, hey, I brought you a housewarming gift.”
“Um. Thanks?” Spencer Smith, Joe had learned that from Bob, took the broom kind of hesitantly.
Joe scratched the back of his head. “The guys above you are fucking noisy, man, so you’ll need it. I’m—”
“Joe, wow, how incredibly mean of you. A broom?” Pete jarred his shoulder, pushed around him and into Spencer’s apartment.
Joe rolled his eyes.
“We’re not loud,” Pete said to Spencer. “We’re Pete and Patrick.”
“You’re fucking loud, Pete,” Joe said. He would know. He’d lived in Spencer’s apartment with Andy before Matt moved out of the building. Moving all their shit one floor up had been a pain, but totally worth it. Pete was a moody bitch, and Patrick had the worst temper imaginable.
“Uh.” Spencer shifted on his feet, eyebrows arched, but the curve of his mouth looked amused. “Hi.”
“Hello,” Pete said. Then he reached behind Joe and caught Patrick’s wrist – Joe hadn’t even seen him hiding back there – and pulled him against his side; like, hugged him close, and Joe’s own eyebrows climbed up his forehead because that was new.
“This is Patrick,” Pete cut him off.
“Hey,” Patrick said. He sounded kind of huffy.
“This oughta be good,” Joe muttered, and Pete shot him a toothy watch-it grin.
“We’re in love,” Pete said, apropos of nothing at all, and Patrick growled, “Pete, what the fu—”
“Language, Pattycakes,” Pete admonished, and Joe took a giant step backwards because something was going to explode, he was pretty sure. Andy was going to be so pissed he missed it.
Patrick turned bright red. “I’m going to kill you, Pete,” he said, clipped and precise.
Pete smushed a kiss against his temple.
Joe watched, fascinated, as all the bluster just melted out of Patrick’s body. Weird. “Huh,” he said. “Are you—”
“No,” Patrick said. He slanted a really mean, uncalled for glare at Joe. Seriously, Joe was just an innocent bystander in all this.
“Dude.” Joe held his hands up.
“I’m going back upstairs,” Patrick said. He smiled tightly at Spencer. “Nice to meet you.”
“Sure,” Spencer said. He didn’t seem to take any offence, which Joe thought was really cool of him.
He clapped Spencer on the shoulder. “I’m in 3B,” Joe said. “Come on up and visit sometime.”
Bob was already under their kitchen sink when Joe pushed open his apartment door. “Bob,” he said. “Keymaster.”
Andy was out, which was a shame. Joe had broken the garbage disposal in the first place so that Andy could get some quality Bob-time in. Andy was pretty adamant about not having any feelings for Bob, but Joe was sure that was impossible. Bob was everything awesome with a slice of really fucking cool. Plus, he had all these keys.
“I don’t know what you fucking do, Trohman. I’m gonna start charging.” The pipes clanged loudly, and one of Bob’s legs twitched. He twisted a little, peered out of the dark cabinet at Joe.
“It’s your job, dude,” Joe said, getting a beer out of the fridge and popping the top. He knocked the can on Bob’s knee. “Want one?”
“Yeah,” Bob said, sliding out, wiping grime off his forehead with his wrist. “I think you need a new disposal.”
“Bummer,” Joe said, giving Bob his open beer and reaching for another one for himself.
“Yeah, right.” Bob shook his head. He’d gotten rid of the lip ring, Joe noticed, which was too bad.
Joe pressed his lips together, fumbled around for something to say. Bob was awesome and all, perfect for Andy, but Joe sometimes felt a little tongue-tied around him. Particularly when they were in direct eye contact. Bob had some fierce blue eyes. “You know Walker got a dog,” he finally said.
“No, he didn’t.”
Joe arched an eyebrow. “Pretty sure, dude.”
“No,” Bob said pointedly. “Just a really big rat.”
“Oh, man.” Joe laughed, sat down hard on a kitchen chair, because that was just funny. “Brendon got you, right?”
“I have no idea what you mean,” Bob said, scowling. He took a very obvious this-conversation-is-over gulp of his beer.
Joe shrugged. “Whatever,” he said, and tried to think of ways he could keep Bob around until Andy got home.
Spencer had absolutely no opinion of his job. It was a job, it paid his bills, it let him live alone and he didn’t have to wear a suit. At five on the dot he was out the door, down the back stairs and into the cold twilight. His apartment was only ten blocks away, down Fairmont, and he walked it fast, hands in his pockets and scarf tucked over his chin.
He stopped for milk, waved at Gerard through the front window of Rewind, and then took the stairs two at a time up to the second floor.
Fifteen minutes later, he was in a t-shirt and sweats, settled down on his couch with a bowl of Cheerios for dinner. And then he jumped maybe a foot when the knock came at his living room window. His heart did a loop-de-loop into his stomach, but he got up to peek through the shades. A hobo was grinning at him.
“Hi,” the guy said, muffled slightly through the thin pane of glass. He had on a floppy cap and a long sleeve t-shirt and pajama pants, and when he raised his hand to knock again, Spencer caught flashes of his fingertips through his gloves. “Open up.”
“What? No,” Spencer said, because maybe he wasn’t used to the city, but he knew you didn’t open up your window to hobos.
He rolled his eyes. “Seriously, I’m Ryan.” He gestured a thumb to the side. “I’m your neighbor.”
Spencer wasn’t sure he believed him. He could be a thief. He could have a weapon tucked in his… His thoughts trailed off as his eyes fell, because the dude wasn’t wearing any shoes, and it was like 40 degrees out. “Wow,” he said, sliding the window up with a jerk. “You’re barefoot.”
“What? Oh.” Ryan looked down. “Oh, uh, huh. Thought I was cold. Look,” he said. “Look, if you were going to kill someone at a carnival, like, how would you go about—”
“I’m sorry, what?” Spencer was kind of convinced he’d moved into some sort of twilight zone.
“I need five deaths. Five’s a good number for murders, but my scene is sort of limiting and Frank took away all my knives.”
The knock on his door was pretty welcome at that point. Spencer debated slamming the window shut before answering it, but Ryan was half in and half out, and he seemed kind of crazy, but not exactly homicidal. Still. He kept an eye on him as he moved towards the front of the apartment.
There was a really short guy on the other side of his door. He had a lot of tattoos, too.
“Hey,” he said, bouncing a little on his heels, mouth curved up in a small grin. “You seen Ross anywhere?”
“Tall, gangly guy, possibly unwashed?”
“There’s a homeless man on my fire escape,” Spencer offered.
“That’ll be Ross. I’m Frank,” the guy said. “I’ll just collect the freak and go. You didn’t give him any knives, did you?” Frank pushed past Spencer without waiting for an answer, and Ryan kind of lit up when he spotted Frank in the room.
“Frank, what are—is it Tuesday already?”
“You seriously need a keeper.” Frank grabbed his arm, pulled him fully inside the room.
“Frank, Frank, how would you kill someone at a carnival?” Ryan asked, and Frank said, “I’ve always thought those Tilt-A-Whirl rides were evil.”
“When did you last shower?” Frank asked, pushing Ross back into his apartment.
“I have no idea.” Ross scratched his head. “Saturday?”
Frank sighed, because that probably wasn’t accurate, considering Ross hardly ever knew what day it was. “Doesn’t your publisher give you enough of an advance for an assistant?” he asked.
“They’ll send someone if I miss my deadline,” Ross said, dropping into the huge leather chair behind his desk and unlocking his computer screen. “Tilt-A-Whirl,” he murmured, and Frank rolled his eyes.
Celebrated author, my ass, Frank thought. He sincerely doubted Ross’s genius status, but whatever. “Advice, dude. Shower.”
Ross waved a hand at him. “Yeah, okay, later.”
Tuesday, 6:10 PM. Gerard was really fucking pathetic. He rolled his forehead on the cold glass, watching as Frank darted out of the building, walked past the flood light in front of the stairwell, and then Frank half-turned towards the store, raised a hand in a wave, and Gerard fucking flinched, seriously. Shit. He was so screwed.
“That Frank?” Ray asked over his shoulder, and Ray was always asking these fucking obvious questions because who the hell else would it be?
Gerard just sighed, though, and said, “Yeah.”
“Frank’s really cool,” Brendon said.
Gerard shot him a glare, but Brendon wasn’t paying him any attention. He was feeding Ray’s fries to his giant curly-haired rat, sitting on the front counter, swinging his feet and rattling the glass-front displays.
“Yeah,” Gerard said again, resigned. Frank was really fucking cool, and Gerard was a pussy.
“So is Spencer,” Brendon said, and then he flashed Gerard a huge grin.
Gerard rolled his eyes. “So Ray’s off the hook?” he asked.
Ray blinked up from where he was reordering comic books on a lower shelf. “What?”
“Ray is not off the hook,” Brendon said, tilting his chin up almost defiantly. “Ray’s my hero.”
“What?” Ray asked again. He got to his feet, swiped his palms on his thighs.
“You’re my hero, Ray Toro.” Brendon held up little Sassafras and waved her paw at him. Sass bared her teeth in a silent snarl. That dog was a mean little shit.
Ray blinked again. “Okay.” And that was Ray. Ray was kind of oblivious of anything that wasn’t music or comics.
Gerard wasn’t sure if Brendon was serious or not, but for an entire year he’d been following Ray around like a fucking puppy. Walker hadn’t seemed concerned, and Ray obviously hadn’t minded, so it was just one more thing that made Brendon weird, and slightly endearing.
“Spencer, huh?” Gerard shook his head.
Brendon just grinned wider. “Yep.”
Brendon not-so-secretly thought Spencer was the best thing ever. Better than poptarts and hot chocolate and ponies, even. Better than Jon Walker. There was very little in life, except perhaps moon rocks – rocks! From the moon! – that was better than Jon Walker.
Humming The Candy Man under his breath, Brendon gave Spencer’s door a jaunty little knock.
Sassafras popped her head of his bag and made an adorable growly sound, and Brendon said, “Don’t worry, Sass, I still love you best.” He kind of thought Jon might’ve been right about the not taking Sass everywhere with him thing. Brendon was sure he’d be heartbroken when Jon’s parents got back from their year-long trip around the world. He’d have to give Sass back, and then what would he do with his hot pink leather dog satchel?
“Hey,” Brendon said when Spencer jerked his door open.
“Hi, Brendon,” Spencer said, and Brendon beamed at him, because he’d said his name, and Brendon was a giant girl where Spencer was concerned.
Ray had been, like, an impossible, harmless crush, because Ray had found him and brought him home and gave him Jon Walker and Brendon would always be grateful for all that, but Spencer. Spencer was shiny.
Spencer had this smile that lit up his whole face. Spencer was this boy, this man, with broad shoulders and hips – wow, did he have hips – and that was maybe sort of impossible, but wasn’t; wasn’t anything but true.
“Hi.” Brendon waved, rocked back on his heels. “Can I hang out with you?” His plan was to get to the point where he could hang out without asking, like he did with Pete and Patrick and Joe and Ray, but it’d only been a week. Brendon was pacing himself.
“Sure.” Spencer waved him inside. “Do you know that guy who lives next door?”
“Ryan? Yeah, he’s like. An author.” Ryan wrote romantic murder mysteries. He had, like, five books out or something, but Brendon had never actually read any of them. Brendon wasn’t a big fan of gore, and Ryan’s stuff was rumored to be pretty bloody. Brendon liked stories about horses and elephants and babies. And talking dogs. Talking dogs were pretty sweet.
Spencer got a soda out of the fridge, waggled the can at Brendon. “Want a drink?”
“Yes, please.” Brendon was so polite. Spencer was going to love him, seriously. In no time at all.
“Yeah, what?” Joe blinked blearily up at Andy from his sprawl on the couch.
Andy put his hands on his hips, tapped his toes. “So. Why is the stove in two pieces?”
Stove, stove. Something with the stove. “Um. Fell apart? Dude, it totally fell apart. Almost took my foot off.” Joe might have yanked on the door a lot, though. After he took some screws out.
Andy arched an eyebrow. “And you called Bob.”
“Bob’s the man, Andy. Bob can fix fucking… unicorns and shit. If, like, their horns fell off.”
“Did that make sense in your head?” Andy asked, dropping down onto the couch next to him.
Joe shrugged. “Sure, maybe.” He slid down lower in the cushions, stretched his leg out and pressed his toe onto the Xbox power button. “Halo?”
Andy reached over and tossed him a controller.
Bob was pretty okay with his job. He got a free place to live, worked with his hands, and, with the exception of Joe in 3B, the amount of emergencies was minimal. 1A had a massive water leak three months ago in the middle of the night, but that was the worst they’d ever gotten in the three years he’d been in the building.
Mainly, Brendon locked himself out of Walker’s apartment a lot.
Smith hovered in the doorway behind them as Bob flipped through the mass of keys at his belt.
“Bob,” Brendon said. “Bob, you’re the best. Seriously, you so are.”
“No problem.” Brendon had probably lost about fifteen keys in the past year. Bob thought Walker should consider putting in a new lock, but since Brendon would just lose more keys, it seemed pretty pointless. “In you go,” he said, unlocking the deadbolt and pushing the door wide.
“Best,” Brendon stressed, grinning up at him. And then his bag barked.
Bob crossed his arms over his chest and stepped aside. “Keep your rat quiet or I’ll start setting traps,” he said.
Smith snorted, but when Bob glanced at him he was just staring at Brendon, eyes bright, and Bob wasn’t going to touch that one.
The first person Patrick thought to call was Bob. “Bob,” he whispered in his cell.
“Bob,” he repeated, just a little bit louder. “It’s Patrick. Bob.” Oh god, Patrick was in such deep shit. “Pete’s insane.”
“So that’s news,” Bob said.
“Shut up, seriously, I’m in his parents’ bathroom.”
There was an overly long pause. Then Bob said, “Why are you calling me?”
Patrick wanted to yell because you fix things or something equally panicky and nonsensical, but he took a deep breath and said, “I don’t know. I don’t know, except you’ve got to get me out of here.”
There was a soft knock at the door. “Patrick?”
“Um. Hang on,” Patrick said to Pete, then hushed his voice again and begged, “Please, Bob, please.”
“Patrick?” Pete said again. “You okay?”
“Patrick,” Bob said. “I’m not going to pick you up. You’re in fucking Chicago, dude, and I’m going back to sleep.”
“Bob? Bob?” Patrick hissed, but Bob had already hung up, crap.
“Patrick?” The door swung open, and Patrick pushed off the tub, scrambled to his feet and snapped, “Jesus, Pete, I’m in the bathroom.”
“Yeah, dude.” Pete gave him a funny look. “You’ve been in here for a half hour, so. Are you okay?”
“Fine.” Patrick crossed his arms over his chest, narrowed his eyes. It was bedtime. Time for bed. Pete’s bed. Where he was expected to sleep. With Pete. Sometimes he really hated his life.
“Can I brush my teeth now?” Pete asked, staring at him with equally narrow eyes.
Patrick gestured towards the sink. “Be my guest.” Patrick got prickly when he was backed into a corner. He kind of wanted to punch Pete right then, but they were at his parents’ house and he wasn’t going to start a fight there, he wasn’t, so he forced his hands to curl into ineffectual fists at his sides.
Pete arched an eyebrow. “Meet you in bed?”
“Yes,” Patrick said tightly, and then pushed past Pete and stalked off down the hall.
Pete was completely bewildered by Patrick’s attitude, but he wasn’t going to let him get away with it. Patrick’s hackles were up, his back stiff under the blankets of his bed, facing the wall. Pete slipped in behind him and propped his chin on Patrick’s shoulder.
“Patrick,” he whispered. Patrick didn’t answer, and Pete poked his ribs. “Patrick.”
“Go to sleep, Pete,” Patrick bit out.
“Don’t be angry,” Pete said, then leaned down to peck his jaw, bury his face in his nape. “Please.”
Patrick sort of deflated; Pete could feel the tension seep out of him, feel him relax into the pillows. “I’m not,” Patrick said. “Just go to sleep.”
Bob let himself into Gerard’s apartment at quarter after eight and found everyone already up and in the kitchen. It was Saturday, so that was kind of surprising, since Rewind didn’t open on Saturdays until ten. “Did anyone else get a midnight call from Stump?” he asked, pouring a cup of coffee.
Gerard looked at him muzzily over his own mug. “Not me.”
Bob shrugged. “He was freaking out about Pete.”
Mikey made a halfway alive sound from his slump at the table. His eyes weren’t even fully open yet, and he slurped blindly at the coffee Ray slid in front of him.
“Pete wanted his mom to meet Patrick,” Ray offered.
“Yes,” Bob said slowly, because they all knew that. Pete had been particularly vocal about that point. “Yes, we all knew that, Ray.”
Ray bobbed his head. “Okay. Just saying. I don’t think Patrick knew that.”
Mikey, slightly more awake, said, “Patrick doesn’t know they’re dating.”
“Pete hasn’t told him that yet,” Gerard put in around a yawn. He scrubbed a hand through his hair, black strands sticking up everywhere.
Bob took a sip of coffee, nodded. “So they’re dating.”
Mikey pushed his glasses up his nose. “According to Pete.”
“I don’t know if you can technically call it dating then, but.” Ray shrugged.
“Probably not,” Bob agreed. “I’m guessing no.” And then his cell rang and Bob glanced at the number and cursed. Fucking Joe.
Andy and Bob crossed paths in the hallway, and Andy hooked his thumb over his shoulder and said, “Sorry, man. Joe said something was wrong with the shower.”
Andy was a pretty cool guy. Bob hadn’t spent much time around him, but he also never got calls from him about the fridge making weird noises – “Zuul, dude, Zuul, I’m serious, it was, like, eggs frying on the counter scary,” Joe said, and, hey, it’s not like the Ghostbusters jokes ever got old, right? - or squeaky door hinges or clogged drains. One day, Bob was going to strangle Joe, and the jail time would be completely worth it.
“Joe,” he yelled, knocking and opening the door at the same time. “Trohman, what the—” He cut himself off, because Joe was standing in the kitchen, mug in one hand, the other gripping a twisted knot of towel at his waist. He was wet, too.
Joe swallowed the sip he’d taken, then said, “No hot water, dude, seriously.”
Bob stared at him.
Joe bit his lip. “Um. Bob?”
Joe was half-naked, and Bob’s fingers were tingling. Huh. “Yeah,” Bob said. “Yeah, let me, uh, just head downstairs and check the water heater.”
“Just so you know, I hate you for getting me up this early,” Mikey said. Who the fuck had an estate sale in the middle of November? It was bad enough that Ray and Gerard dragged him around yard sales all spring. At least then it was halfway warm out.
He hugged his Starbucks cup closer to his chest, cradled protectively in both hands, because these things were always fucking crazy. He’d already almost gotten killed for accidentally getting in between an old lady and some sort of hideous rooster lamp.
Ray grinned. “Early bird gets the mint condition Luke Skywalker,” he said, holding up the figurine. He had an only slightly distressed Boba Fett in his other hand – too beat up to resell at Rewind, so Mikey figured that one was for his private collection.
“Oh, hey, guys, take a look at this.” Gerard held up a. Thing. Mikey wasn’t sure what it was, but it was ugly, stuffed in a box that looked like a cage.
“What the fuck?”
“It’s a Boglin! I haven’t seen one of these in fucking years.” Gerard stuck his hand in the bottom of the box, wriggled the little arms and growled.
Mikey yawned. “That’s great, Gee, are we done yet?”
“It’s a rubber ghoul puppet, Mikes,” Gerard said, shoving the box into Mikey’s face. “It’s Dwork.”
Mikey stared at Gerard, at his grin stretching across his face, slitting his eyes. “You’re going to torture me with this thing for forever, aren’t you?” he deadpanned.
Instead of answering, Gerard made Dwork kiss his cheek.
There were two main things Spencer found kind of hard to believe. He found it hard to believe that he lived in a crappy apartment next to the George Ryan Ross, who wrote these incredible murder mysteries – Spencer’s favorite was Sins Not Tragedies, and he had his latest, Lying Is The Most Fun, in his pile of books to read whenever he had downtime - and that the George Ryan Ross was actually this weirdo kid who forgot to bathe and eat and showed up at his window a couple nights a week to ask him what he thought about box cutters and hemp rope and if electrocution was elegant enough for a climatic plot point.
Frank, Spencer learned, only came on Tuesdays to deliver groceries, and – according to Brendon, but Spencer also learned that Brendon greatly exaggerated almost everything – to make sure Ryan hadn’t died sometime during the week.
Brendon also told Spencer - because Brendon apparently loved to gossip - that Gerard had the biggest crush ever on Frank, but that they’d never actually met, since Gerard couldn’t get up enough nerve to do much more than say hi from a safe distance. The Way brothers owned the building, but Spencer hadn’t spent very much time with them, had only stopped in at Rewind a couple of times after work, so he just nodded his head whenever Brendon brought them up. Sometimes, he just liked to hear Brendon talk.
Brendon was sort of adorable and exhausting at the same time. He was so enthusiastic about everything, and more often than not he made Spencer smile, made him laugh, even, and lately that wasn’t exactly an easy thing to do. Spencer was embarrassingly homesick.
He kept in touch with his sister through text messages, called his parents twice a week, but it was still hard. He’d lived at home throughout his college career, and this separation was more difficult than he’d thought it would be.
The apartment walls were thin, so when Sass started making a fuss, yipping and bark-whining in that particular high-pitched way that she did when she was really excited, Spencer could hear it all the way across the hall. It meant Brendon was home, though, and Spencer was pretty bored, and Brendon was. Brendon was someone that Spencer enjoyed being around, honestly, which was surprising, given that Brendon had all the social skills of a cocker spaniel.
When a scruffy guy opened Brendon’s door after his knock, though, Spencer wondered if it would be too lame to ask to borrow a cup of sugar.
“Hi,” Scruffy Guy said, grinning at him. He had on a white t-shirt and jeans, bare toes peeking out from under the overlong denim, and he looked really at home there, leaning into the doorjamb, staring at him with sweet brown eyes.
“Um.” Spencer shifted awkwardly on his feet. “Is Brendon here?”
“Oh, yeah, hey, you must be Spencer.” Scruffy Guy grinned even wider. “Brendon won’t shut up about you. I’m Jon.”
Spencer wanted to snap something about Brendon not saying anything at all about Jon, but he couldn’t figure out how to do that without sounding like a bitch. He normally didn’t care if he sounded bitchy, but he kind of didn’t want Jon to know how startled he was. He’d thought Brendon lived alone.
“Come on in,” Jon said, and Spencer shook his head.
“Spencer,” Brendon crowed, bounding up behind Jon, wrapping an arm around his waist and hooking his chin over Jon’s shoulder. “Hi!”
Spencer felt really stupid. He hated feeling stupid. “Hey,” he said blandly, cocking a hip. “I just heard Sass barking, so.” He trailed off, one eyebrow arched.
“Oh. Oh, sorry,” Brendon said, smile wavering. “She was just excited to see Jon.”
Spencer nodded. “Okay. Good to meet you, Jon,” he said, flashing a thin smile. Be nice, he admonished himself.
Jon arched both of his own eyebrows. “Yeah, you too.”
“You scared him away,” Brendon said, poking Jon in the stomach. “You scared him.”
“Are you sure you like him?” Jon asked. “He’s got a vicious grin, dude.”
“Because you scared him, Jon Walker.” He jutted out his lower lip, and Jon pinched it between his fingers.
“I’m not scary, Brendon,” he said. “I’m the very opposite of scary. I’m a font of cuddliness, even.” He let Brendon’s lip go and pushed him towards the kitchen. “Come on, lunch, I’m starving.”
“Don’t they feed you?” Brendon asked, and he was definitely skeptical, because Jon was always hungry when he got back from a trip, but not too skeptical, because Jon was right. He was a font of cuddliness, soft belly and all.
“Little packets of peanuts,” Jon said, but he was smiling, eyes teasing, and Brendon knew he was lying through his teeth. He probably ate gourmet, and now he had to make do with Brendon’s spaghetti and meatballs.
Brendon asked, “Grilled cheese?”
“Mmmm,” he nodded, “with bacon.”
“I think,” Ross said slowly, blinking at Frank from behind glasses Frank wasn’t sure he even needed. They were half-moon, constantly sliding down his nose, and Frank couldn’t remember ever seeing him wearing them whenever he was sitting behind his computer, actually writing.
“Yeah?” Frank prompted.
Ross leaned in, grabbed the front of Frank’s t-shirt in his fist and said close to his ear, “I think Jon’s a spy.”
It took a minute for Frank to figure out who Jon was. “The guy across the hall? Lives with Brendon?”
Ross pursed his lips, let Frank go and waved a hand, thin-boned wrist flashing white as the cuff of his shirt separated from the hem of his fingerless gloves. “He’s never home. I don’t think Brendon even knows where he goes.”
“He travels for his work,” Frank said.
“Which is espionage, Frank, think about it.” His eyes grew speculative, staring into the middle distance. “I wonder if he keeps a gun on him. Tucked under his shirt, pressed against the small of his back, slipping a little over his overheated skin, barrel almost too hot. He’s shot it recently; you can smell it if you’re close enough, maybe even through his jacket.”
“Shh.” Ross worried the nail of his middle finger between his teeth, eyes half-closed.
Frank rolled his eyes. Ross was fucking odd, but he thought maybe he should pick up one of his books sometime. He’d heard they were pretty bloody.
A purple post-it note fluttered to the ground when Frank left Ross’s apartment. COME DOWN TO REWIND, it said, and Frank half-smiled. Rewind, huh?
Brendon was waving at him out the front door when he hit the sidewalk and he stuffed his hands in his hoodie, eyes flicking behind him. That guy was there. The one who always watched him through the front window and occasionally said hi.
Frank plastered on a smile and pushed inside, the overhead bell jangling. “Urie,” he said, nodding. “What’s up?”
“I wanted to say hello,” Brendon said, leaning towards him with wide eyes. He was fluttering them a lot.
“Dude.” Frank cocked his head. “You have some sort of tic or something?”
“No.” He jerked his head to the side, widened his eyes even more. It was kind of freaking Frank out.
“What are you—”
“Gerard!” Brendon said loudly. He was talking over his shoulder without actually taking his eyes off Frank. “Hey, Gerard, come say hello to Frank.”
Frank thought maybe Brendon was trying to look stern or encouraging or something in between, but he kind of just looked demented. Frank nodded at Gerard, though, said, “Hey.”
“Hi, um.” Gerard bit his lower lip around a small smile, pushing his cheeks up, the tops flushed pink. It was kind of adorable.
Frank rubbed the back of his neck, bounced on his feet. “So.” He darted his gaze to Brendon, who was backing away slowly, half-crazed grin on his face, then back to Gerard. “You work here?” he asked, and wow. Wow, was that stupid and so very obvious the answer was yes.
“I, uh, well. With Mikey. We sort of own the building,” Gerard said, nodding.
“Cool. Mikey. He’s the skinny kid with the glasses, right?”
“My brother, yeah,” Gerard said, and Frank was glad he hadn’t added ‘prone to creepy silent stares’ to that description. Mikey seemed nice enough, just kind of flaky and absentminded.
“Right, uh.” Frank debated offering a hand. Handshakes were iffy, kind of dorkish, and while ingrained Iero politeness called for it, he thought maybe Gerard, who had his own hands shoved deep into his pockets, would just leave him hanging, anyway. He settled on a small wave and said, “Well, I’ve got another delivery to make before heading home, so. I’ll see you guys next week.”
“Oh my god,” Gerard said, watching Frank walk back down to his car. “Oh my god, Brendon, why did you—how could you—fuck.”
Brendon patted his arm. “Now you’ve met.”
“Now we—” He pressed his eyes closed, fist against his forehead. He’d just made a complete jackass out of himself in front of Frank, and it was all Brendon’s fucking fault. “Couldn’t you have warned me, at least?” he asked, voice pale and pained. Jesus Christ. He’d stuttered. More than once!
“Frank’s nice,” Brendon said, grinning in complete unconcern for Gerard’s total abject humiliation. “He takes care of Ryan.”
“He brings Ryan groceries,” Ray said from behind the counter, and Gerard whirled on him, jabbing a finger.
“And where the fuck were you, Toro?”
Ray crinkled his brow. “Right here?”
Gerard flapped his hands around, realized he looked like a complete fucking moron and stopped, tucking them into his armpits. He scowled at Ray. “Yeah, and a fat lot of good that did me.” Ray could’ve been his back up. He could’ve swept in and steered the conversation and helped Gerard not look like an idiot, because that kind of thing was obviously beyond Brendon’s abilities.
“I thought that went pretty good,” Brendon said, a little bewildered around the eyes, and it was just. Really fucking cute, god.
“You’re a little shit, Brendon,” Gerard said, but there wasn’t any venom in his voice, and he slapped the back of Brendon’s head pretty lightly, considering.